Whakatāne Kiwi Population Continues to Thrive

Whakatāne Kiwi Population Continues to Thrive

Last week, in a small grove on White Horse Drive in Whakatāne a contingent of environmental protectors gathered to release a new kiwi into the wild.

At the release, the name of the kiwi was also revealed as Tātea – a derivative of Kaitātea, which is the name of the time of the year that she was born in according to the Ngāti Awa maramataka.

Tātea is a progeny of the prodigious male kiwi, Whiuwhiu, and was found as an egg near the side of a road near Kohi Point Reserve. The egg was uplifted on December 19 and taken to the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua.

On January 2, the egg hatched and after four months Tātea, at just a smidge under the crucial 1000-gram mark, was returned to her tūrangawaewae in the Mokorua Scenic Reserve last Wednesday.

Kiwi have been released back into the Whakatāne area for more than two decades. In 1999, eight North Island brown kiwi were unexpectedly found in the Ōhope Scenic Reserve. These eight birds were the last of the population in Whakatāne with predators killing most chicks before they could reach adulthood.

The discovery of these kiwi prompted the development of the Whakatāne Kiwi Project, a partnership between the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (then Environment Bay of Plenty) and the Department of Conservation, in conjunction with Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa. Since then, the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust and the Whakatāne District Council have also become partners in the project.

The Whakatāne Kiwi Project is dedicated to the serious effort required to re-establish a thriving kiwi population. That dedication has seen kiwi in the Whakatāne area go from the original eight birds to now over 300 with manu in all three major reserves around town including Ōhope, Mokorua, and Kōhi Point scenic. The birds have also been established on pest-free Moutohorā.

Nowadays, kiwi literally live in the backyards of Whakatāne and Ōhope. Residents and visitors to the area have the unique opportunity to walk into the bush and step into kiwi territory. It is this exceptional set of circumstances that has led to Whakatāne gaining the tile of ‘Kiwi Capital of the World’.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Manahautū Reuben Araroa said one of the many rewards that flows from the Whakatāne Kiwi Project was improvement of the local biodiversity as a whole and the iwi was committed to continuing its support for this mahi.

“For Ngāti Awa, our kiwi population restoration is one of the best measures of how our local eco-systems are functioning in synergy with our regional pest eradication programs. So, we are very pleased to see the Kiwi, a taonga (treasure) to Māori, culturally and spiritually, thrive is such economic and environmentally challenging times. 

“We also acknowledge the sponsors and especially the volunteers of the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust who contribute well over 200 days of their time each year to ensure our kiwi taonga thrive. The Iwi is grateful for their continued commitment.” 

Whakatāne Kiwi Trust Chair, Wayne O’Keefe said he was grateful of the support from Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and its large-scale pest eradication project, Korehāhā Whakahau, at the release. “With the mood being set with karakia and waiata, it was a very special morning. Kiwi Trust volunteers and contractors work tirelessly to ensure these taonga have the best possible chance to thrive, and we are always humbled to play our part in this amazing project. Thanks also to all project partners, and especially to mana whenua for providing such a meaningful name.”